© 2019 by KEY INTERACTIVE BOOKS LLP

FULL REVIEWS

"Keys to Music Theory is an introduction to the rudiments of music theory, covering basic pitch notation, intervals, scales, and basic rhythmic notation. The e-book is lively and inviting, beautifully written and executed.  The material is presented in a colorful, attractively designed interactive format that encourages readers’ active engagement through self-testing, quizzes, chapter reviews, animations and listening examples.  The first chapter, “A Guide to Your Multi-Touch Book” acquaints the reader with the book’s many interactive features.  Keys to Music Theory is written in plain and welcoming language.  Many texts presenting rudiments of music theory tend to be dry and boring.  Keys to Music Theory is friendly and inviting!  Congratulations to the author and designer for having created a rich and attractive environment that will appeal to a wide variety of learners!"

      

                                                    Janet Steele

Janet Steele, M. Mus. is a soprano, singing teacher, and Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner based in New York City.  She was a professor of music at the City University of New York for over 40 years and is co-author of Elementary Musicianship: an Introduction to Theory, Sight-Singing and Ear Training (Knopf, 1982). 

'Keys to Music Theory' is an astonishing array of information and practical support for any student wishing to make sense of the world of music theory, presented in a visually attractive and interactive e-Book.  Carefully constructed chapters allow learning to be assimilated in chunks, while the reviews and games serve to embed the new knowledge.  The 'flip forwards, flip backwards' facility allows the learner complete control of the pace of study and offers an immediate route for revision. Terminology is explained in straightforward language using simple analogies, where appropriate, to underpin meaning - the text is supported by an excellent glossary.  The required technological skill is minimal, making the contents available to the most entrenched technophobe!  This is an imaginative, appealing and comprehensive 'step-by-step' theory guide for any music student.'

      

                                                    Sue Nicholls

 

Sue Nicholls is an independent music education consultant.

‘This is an invaluable and comprehensive resource for teaching music theory to children and adults alike.
I have been teaching music for 30 years and I am really impressed by this book.  It’s step by step approach - which incorporates sound files and quizzes plus the facility to cross reference as you progress through the book - is extremely accessible and fun.
I would highly recommend it.’

                                                   Jane Jackson

Jane Jackson is a Music-Coordinator and Class Music Teacher 

      

Keys to Music Theory 1

This interactive music theory ebook is billed as 'a clear and engaging interactive guide starting with the basics.' Its target market is anyone looking to get help with theory and notation, including self-taught 'by ear' musicians and parents who want to support their children's learning. It is available only on Apple devices at present and can be purchased through Apple Books or iTunes. I tested it on an iPhone (absolutely fine in landscape format) but an iPad, where the text size and interactivity would be more intuitive, might make for a more optimized experience.

 

The book's interactive features include an instant glossary to look up technical terms without having to leave the current screen; pop-out enlargeable diagrams; 'live tables (eg where clicking on the name of a scale makes notation appear); hundreds of supporting sound files; and various pop-up hints and tips to help with the frequent games and quizzes. Readers can also add their own notes and comments, which are then collated in a 'my notes' section. It's clear that the authors have put serious time and investment into what they envisage to be a game-changing resource.

After a brief introductory user guide, the book proper opens with a chapter entitled ‘Reading Music’. This begins by explaining why reading music matters; how US and UK notation terminology differs; how different people might get to grips with notation differently; and how notation and theory are linked to related topics like why some chords sound sad and others happy. In this way the book sets itself up as an authority, not just on Keys to Music Theory 1 the rudiments of music theory, but also on why theory matters and how it can enhance our experience of making music. Other chapters address the structure of music (keys, scales and modes), intervals, pulse and time, and to end with, a taster of what could perhaps be studied next: cadences, transposition, ornaments and instrument families (among other things) – presumably topics for a second volume. 

To give a flavour of how the interactivity works, I'll choose a chapter at random: 'Intervals'. The first few pages discuss what intervals are and their function in music. At the base of each page are various notated intervals that you can touch and hear. Increasingly advanced terms (melodic vs harmonic intervals; compound intervals) are introduced next, again with opportunities to click and listen. Then it's time to learn about the rules for naming intervals, interspersed with quick tests and games. I liked the 'hint' and 'learn more' buttons, which provide additional information in pop-up boxes. A 'US' button is also handily provided each time an equivalent piece of terminology needs to be introduced (eg a semitone is called a half-step in the US).

I can't argue with any of the chapter topics or the information included within them. Each chapter is as comprehensive as you could wish for, and the presentation is both colourful and clean. And, impressively for a new interactive ebook, I didn't encounter a single technical glitch.

This is a 'read carefully and explore' kind of resource rather than 'dive in and do'. What is on offer here – a clear and thorough instructional guide to music theory – is text based, with the ebook technology used to provide a broad and impressive range of supplementary features. These features will more than likely enhance the learning process, but they do not comprise a wholly new model for digital learning. Rather, this is a 'book plus' – something that will please those looking for a modern theory manual to explore on an iPad.

Because of the in-depth nature of its explanations, I would recommend this book for students of secondary school age and older. Younger learners may well enjoy the interactive features but might need a teacher or an informed parent to 'translate'. Given prevailing consumer expectations for free or almost-free digital content £23.99 might initially seem steep, but this is justified when the book is sampled and the amount of work that has gone into it is fully appreciated.

To sum up, Keys to Music Theory 1 is an impressive resource, packed full of important information that is stylishly packaged with innovative technical features.  I wish the authors every success as they continue to develop the project.

CHRIS WALTERS

Editor Music Teacher magazine